Hot Curl – La Jolla, WindanSea Shack Icon

Hot Curl Windansea

The story of Hot Curl first starts like this: Hot Curl was a cartoon character created in 1963 by Michael Dormer and Lee Teacher.

  1. hot-curlIn 1963, Dormer and his friend, Lee Teacher, sculpted Hot Curl, a 400-pound concrete  statue, and installed it on the rocks near the surf shack at La Jolla’s famed Windansea Beach in San Diego, California.
  2. The sculpture of a mop-haired, 6-foot tall, knobby-kneed surfer gazed out at the sea with a beer in his hand.
  3. The pot-bellied surf god quickly became a nationwide sensation appearing in SurfToons comics and as a plastic model kit, selling hundreds of thousands of copies.

In 1964, Hot Curl became a movie star, appearing  in Muscle Beach Party (1964), a cult classic starring Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Buddy Hackett, Don Rickles, and Morey Amsterdam, among others, and featuring the first film appearance of “Little” Stevie Wonder.

Well, lets read between the lines on this story; it was not all that easy for Hot Curl to get his claim to fame. At first, Hot Curl was threatened by the City of San Diego when they wanted it removed. They called it unappropriated for the community. You know the morality issue. Then they added,  “It was built and installed without proper building permits,” –  the typical excuse, bureaucrat BS.

So how did Mike’s cartoon character get its fame?

Well, you can thank La Jollans, surfers, beach goers, Mac Meda,  and activists when they revolted, protested, and organized a “Save Hot Curl,”  campaign. Remember, this was the start of the 1960s, a time of cultural change and protests.

hot-curl2The protest drew nation wide attention and was featured in surfing and underground publication and even the conservative San Diego Union questioned the city’s BS.  Finally the city caved in, made some stipulations (like adding a good concrete base etc) and Hot Curl was allow to flaunt his beer guzzling pot belly at Windansea.

Gee, thank guys!

Unfortunately, Hot Curl became the victim of vandals (Mac Meda put out a contract to find the perpetrator(s) or else) and later,  it was finally destroyed by a large surf day. For a long time, just the concrete base with a couple of bars of rebar was the only remembrance of the revered icon.

However,  Mac Meda did not let it rest and was the first to flaunt a replica (believed to be from one of the movies) of the surfing icon (before La Jolla Parade organizers banned their entry) during the La Jolla Christmas Parade, which it continues to this day rides proud on floats that support WindanSea.


  1. Derek Crawford says:

    Not much point in “speaking my mind” if you won’t post it..:-(

  2. Derek Crawford says:

    Believe it or not, three of my friends and I were the original “vandals” who tore down Hotcurl (mentioned in this article). I think the contract out on us has probably expired…Lol.
    I still remember that night. We had decided we were going to tear down Hotcurl just for kicks. We were all teenagers, and were looking for whatever hi jinx we could get into. San Diego was all astir with the controversy over Hotcurl, and we figgered to jam the scene. The next morning a march was planned to go from City Hall out to the Statue — many miles. We thought it would be cute to see what happened when they marched all the way out there and found the statue in a heap.
    We all piled into one car (Two of us lived in North Park, and two of us lived in Lemon Grove), and headed out to La Jolla. There he was in all his splendor. It was late at night and there was no moon, so it was really dark. We ran into an immediate problem: Hotcurl was very solidly put together. We hadn’t figured on that. He was re-barred and damned hard to free from his moorings. Bob (who turned out to be my lifelong friend — died just last year) wouldn’t be dissuaded, and being a wrestler he threw himself upon the statue and the two of them “wrestled” for about five minutes. I think Bob won. The rest of us had given up, because the damned statue was so well put together, and we just sorta stood around while Bob and Hotcurl rolled around in the sand.
    Although we had “freed” Hotcurl from his moorings, he was mostly still intact. We weren’t able to destroy the statue as completely as we had planned, but the final effect was the same. We had torn down Hotcurl. And we could NEVER tell anybody.
    Bob told me years later he has seen an article where somebody had claimed he was the one who tore the statue down. We just smiled. I even heard a rumor that Time Magazine ran an article on the “destruction,” but I never saw it.
    I have outlived many of those who were alive then. it was long ago. I am 74 now. And I don’t have long, either.
    Funny memories…:-)

    • Derek Crawford says:

      A little “asterisk” to the story that is also worth a smile…the reason the march from City Hall was going to come to a stop at Hotcurl, was because the march was a protest against the city fathers. Those who organized the march were using Hotcurl to represent the San Diego Administration — beer in hand, pot belly, doing nothing while standing and watching…:-)

      • Derek, You should have taken that to YOUR grave.
        You piece of crap letting others take the blame through
        endless speculation. Because what Surfer would do such a thing??
        Hot Curl represented so much to so many.
        The fact that Hot Curl stood proudly at WindnSea
        was such a wonderful symbol of what surfing and beachlife
        was all about.
        How sad you still think this is an amusing story.
        You have earned the distain of all who loved and still love Hot Curl.
        Well Mike ( Dormer) now you know..of course it was inlanders.
        Damn kooks. “Funny memories” ..NOT so much.

        • Derek Crawford says:

          Terry: It all happened long before you were born, child. It is time for you to get a new religion – one that forgives our foolishness as teenagers. Nobody was killed that night, no physical pain imposed, no monetary value decreased. Get over it.

    • Not so “funny” to Macmeda, they’ve been looking for you looks for 55 years.

      • That was KOOKS!

        • Derek Crawford says:

          Terry: It all happened long before you were born, child. It is time for you to get a new religion – one that forgives our foolishness as teenagers. Nobody was killed that night, no physical pain imposed, no monetary value decreased. Get over it.

  3. I would love to have the old hot curl model. Anyone know where it can be found?

  4. LaJolla Larry says:

    Hi there looking for original Hot Curl,Jack Mc
    was one of my best freinds, At the West End, you will see if they are still there Lisence
    Plates from Colo and Florida on the wall (MAC MEDA1)I will be in town in Feb 2013.I will see all soon. LaJolla Larry FYI Say Hi to Keith L
    and Deedee family

  5. September, 10th 2012 a brilliant light went out on earth, Mike Dormer, creator of Hot Curl passed away.
    I’ve known Mike for 60 years, we shared an apartment in Hollywood in the mid ‘50s and I couldn’t have asked for a better roommate. He could put on a spaghetti dinner for a dozen people, including wine, for 42 cents a person.

    When Mike was drafted into the army, the night before he was due to report to the bus station we decided he needed a drink. We proceeded to stop by every bar in La Jolla. 2 A M came and Mike wasn’t ready to call it a night so we hopped into my little Berkeley and headed for Tijuana. After closing all the bars on Avenida Revolución Mike still wasn’t ready call it quits so we asked a taxi driver if there were any other bars still open. He directed us to a bar on one of the back dirt streets where the taxi drivers went after work. We ended up watching the sun rise over Tijuana while drinking beer with raw egg in it for breakfast. We barely made it back to San Diego in time for Mike to catch the army bus.

    Mike was like a brother, he and his lovely wife Flicka were family. No Fox family get together was complete without them. No trip to San Diego was complete without getting together with them.

    Mike was one of the most versatile and talented artists I have ever known. He did everything from the most beautiful figure studies to the most abstract work you can imagine. He often worked in media that no one had ever tried before such as his aluminum foil and resin works. He was also great cartoonist and writer with an incredibly fertile imagination. He was a poet, a musician, a true renaissance man. Hopefully one day his true genius will be recognized.

    Most of all Mike was a wonderful human being and friend. He was just fun to be around, a witty conversationalist always upbeat and funny. He will be dearly missed by all of us lucky enough to have known him. Our love, thoughts, prayers and condolences go out Flicka and his family.

    Rest in peace Michael.

  6. Boop Mobile says:

    RIP Mike Dormer

  7. Nick Yockim says:

    I remember waking up one morning and going down to windnsea and there was Hotcurl. We did not know who made it for a long time and then I saw the plastic model of it years later. I have been looking for one of the models for 30 years so they musy must be worth something. I do not even remember what company made the things but it might help to know. do you want to sell yours?

    • Mike Dormer and Lee Teacher built the Hot Curl statue.
      Mike Dormer truly a surf beat artist, created the iconic character who’s memory lives on to this day.
      Apparently now we know that self confessed Derek Crawford and his kook cohorts are the assholes who tore it down. He better watch his back. ..Macmeda been looking for you for 55 years.

  8. Chris Sutton says:

    I lived at the corner of LJ BLVD and Winamar untill 1972. my older brother was one of not old enough for the lot kids hanging out at the pump house when Tom Wolfe stopped by. He said the made up the craziest stuff they could think of in answer to his questions. After Hot Curl was gone, there was just the feet with rebar on top of the round base. Then the feet were gone, and there was just footprints in the base. I used to stand there with my little feet in the big footprints….
    So, a few years ago this cartoon about a surfing penguin comes out, his hero is a legendary surfer named BIG Z.
    When the young penguin gets to the beach where BIG Z died during a surf contest. There is a round disk on the rocks, with 2 big webfoot prints in it, and the name BIG Z. The young penguin steps into the big web prints. The person that put that into the script must be my age and grown up at Windansea. I thought I was the only person that remembered Hot Curl like that…..
    The summer after Hot Curl was created, installed, and dissapeared, my family visited relatives on the east coast. in a small beach town 5 n dime, were plastic models of Hot Curl. To me, at 5 years old the world seemed suddenly small, and La Jolla big.
    My brother rode a flexie down the Bonzai Pipeline, he said the was a spot they called “the showers” where there was always water showering down, he thought it was under the car wash on Pearl. But that would be too far out of the way. He told me, the Bonzai Pipeline started up at the foot of the hills at the bridle trail.

  9. Michael Flanagan says:

    I have a plastic model of Hot Curl still in the box wrapped up and I believe it is #100. Can you tell me where to find a value for this

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